About the Ackerley Program

The Ackerley Gift

Robert and Leland Ackerley are entrepreneurial brothers who have long been friends of Graceland and have one of the longest of historic connections to the university. In 2002, they gave a $2 million gift to the university's computer science department to benefit computer science and information technology (CS/IT) students for years to come. In making the gift the Ackerleys said they "want Graceland to become a recognized center of computer science excellence." In 2007 they pledged another $1 million to the endowment in order to provide more and more substantial scholarships for top CS/IT students. However, in addition to scholarships there is funding for the latest equipment and an active program that directly benefits all CS/IT students.

The Ackerley brothers own and operate Smith and Associates, an independent worldwide distributor of electronic components and semiconductors. They live in Houston, Texas, where their business headquarters is located, but they operate in a global marketplace. After inauspicious beginnings in 1984 in Robert's home, by 2004 they were conducting business in more than 20 languages from seven locations around the world. It was ranked as the first placed independent distribution business on multiple occasions in trade publications.

Neither brother is a Graceland graduate, but their roots to the university go to the very beginnings. In 1893, their great-great grandmother, Marietta Walker, donated the original 20 acres of land upon which Graceland was established. After hiring a number of Graceland's brightest computer science and other graduates to work in various companies owned by them, Robert and Leland became impressed with the quality of these alumni so much that it prompted their decision to make a significant gift to help the university maintain its academic excellence. Graceland students continue to find internships and employment with their firm.

Interest earned on the Ackerley gift is used to fund competitive scholarships for selected CS/IT students, programmatic expenses that benefit all CS/IT students, updated computing facilities and on-going faculty development. The scholarship recipients are called Ackerley Scholars and they are also active participants or leaders in the program. Programmatic expenses include funding for individual student projects, guest speakers, CS/IT club activities, membership dues in professional societies, and registration, travel, lodging and food on conference or field trips.

The Ackerley Scholarship and the Ackerley Scholars

The interest on the Ackerley gift provides an annual budget of over $100,000, with almost half devoted to scholarships. Ackerley Scholarships of up to $5000 every year are based on scholastic achievement and leadership potential. This scholarship is in addition to other awards and or discounts for good grades. High school seniors with 26 ACT math and 26 overall who are interested in computer technology or programming are encouraged to apply. The ideal candidate is one who likes to get involved with others in projects and clubs.

Those who are interested should download the application and mail it in before the spring deadline noted on the form. Any applications received after the deadline are also considered within the limits of whatever funds that are still available. The application (PDF file) can be found at: http://www.graceland.edu/AckerleyScholarship.

Ackerley scholarship recipients must agree to certain requirements in order to renew the scholarship for all four years.

The Ackerley Program

The Ackerley Computer Science and Technology Scholars Program is the formal name for the program established to implement the intent of the Ackerley gift. That includes funding for the competitive scholarships, faculty development and computing infrastructure, in addition to the programmatic aspects for activities, events and projects. The Ackerley Program often just refers to the programmatic aspect of the overall program. An Ackerley Director administers the overall program and has a significant CS/IT teaching role as faculty. An Ackerley Committee, consisting of the director and several key faculty and administrators, provide oversight and support. The director, who manages the budget, allocates funds, reviews scholarship applications and facilitates the overall program's activities and objectives. A partial list of these objectives follows:

  • Replace the 19 workstations in the CS Lab every 3 years with the latest high-end PC's and upgrade software
     
  • Replace the dedicated servers for CS/IT (a Unix and a Windows-server) approximately every 4 years
     
  • Establish a regular time in which all Ackerley Scholars and the director meet to discuss issues and ideas
     
  • Enlist the Ackerley Scholars in ways that develop, promote and energize the Ackerley Program
     
  • Maintain an active student chapter of ACM using Ackerley Scholars as catalysts (ACM is the Association for Computing Machinery, a national society for CS/IT professionals)
     
  • Bring interesting and relevant guest speakers to ACM meetings for the benefit of all CS/IT students
     
  • Pay the national ACM membership dues for each student who regularly attends ACM club meetings
     
  • Fund trips for CS/IT students to attend CS/IT conferences, workshops, special events, or company visits
     
  • Develop programming teams that compete favorably at programming contests attended by other schools
     
  • Finance worthwhile projects proposed by CS/IT students, individually or collectively
     
  • Encourage student research for presentation at conferences by funding project expenses and an incentive award

The Ackerley Program Director

James S. Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Computer Science, was named the director of the Ackerley Computer Science and Technology Scholars Program when it was first established in the fall of 2002. At that time, his career as a computer scientist included 12 years of federal government service, 15 years of college teaching and three years (1999-2002) as a senior engineer in the embedded systems and telecommunications industry. He received a B.S. from the University of Missouri at Rolla, an M.S. from DePaul University in Chicago, and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa - all in computer science.

Jim presented research work involving compiler design at an international conference and in 1998 co-authored a paper published in Theoretical Computer Science (Elsevier). From 2000-2001, he conducted WindRiver, Inc., workshops for engineers from Cisco, Alcatel, Lucent and others across North America on building embedded agents in network elements such as routers and switches.

More information about his credentials can be found in his resume.